Those Who Can't Recycle, Teach

Recycling in New York City may be in a dormant period, but grass roots are beginning to sprout among companies that want their curbside programs back.

When the city lost its glass and plastic recycling privileges in July 2002, residents also lost a Christmas tree recycling pickup service, which was built into the budget of the now defunct New York City Compost Project. Recycling advocates took this season's landfill-bound trees as a cue to raise public awareness.

“It's amazing to me that people aren't more upset about this,” says Maite Quinn, managing director of Sprint Recycling, a New York-based commercial paper recycling company. Sprint helped to administer a two-day tree-collection and recycling effort sponsored by Waste-Free NYC, an organization funded by INFORM Inc., New York.

“Bloomberg announced that it costs $1.8 million just for [recycling] the Christmas trees; what does that entail? Does anyone ever ask about the breakdown of the numbers?” Quinn asks, adding that with two garbage trucks, two drivers and five volunteers, Sprint collected more than 1,000 trees in three hours in Manhattan. The Sprint trucks transported trees to one of 16 chipping sites INFORM had established in New York's boroughs.

“It's not enough money to actually go out there and [recycle],” Quinn says, “so we have to use this money to teach people. The more outreach you can do, the better results you'll see. Recycling groups in New York want to be involved with helping to make decisions for the Department of Sanitation.”